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Margo Chase is one of the most influential graphic designers of our time. Over the past 20 years, Margo's highly expressive work has been seen in movie posters for Bram Stoker's Dracula; on album covers for top performers like Cher, Madonna, and Prince; and in ads for brands such as Starbucks, Target, and Procter & Gamble. With a background in biology, Margo migrated to the world of graphic design, where she brought a unique, organic quality to logos, lettering, and identity design. Never one to live life passively, Margo has developed a love for competitive aerobatic flying in her own high-performance plane. This installment of Creative Inspirations takes viewers inside the studio, portfolio, and adrenaline-pumped lifestyle of this inspired and inspiring designer.
(Music Playing) Chris Lowery: OK, so we're going to talk a little bit about consumer product style guides. I think, this differs from the other work that we've talked about before, because before we have been working on branding and working on packaging that is actually going to be the final product. In this case, what a consumer product style guide is, is a guide for other people to produce product that really is a toolkit and asset for them to be able to produce product that fits with the brand, that fits with the logo.
Margo Chase: So, a big part of creating style guide is trying to define what the brand actually stands for in the first place and Starbucks is a really good example of a project where we did that from beginning to end with them. Of course, Starbucks already knows who they are. They've known who they are for a long time, which is why they're so successful. In our project, what they asked us to do was create a style guide that would help take the actual essence of the Starbuck brand and the logo and create, what they're calling a signature program of product that they can sell in their stores, which says Starbucks without actually having to necessarily have the green logo on it.
So, really our job in the beginning was to try to sort of dissect the essence of the Starbucks brand and try to determine what the brand was actually made up of and how we could define that. Chris Lowery: In terms of how this works, as Margo said, Starbucks knows very well who they are in their core business, but then what is it when they branch out into other types of product than is their core business. How do the Starbucks brands still come through? Where are the brand promises still reflected in that? So, really to start out, we need to know who they are at their core and what we can extract from them.
They may not know that. Starbucks has a pretty clear view of themselves; others don't necessarily. You'll notice that in terms of what we talked about in branding section, it really kind of goes in reverse, where in the branding section, we're starting out with the attributes and they are boiling down to really concise visual statement, that was the identity. In this case, we're taking the identity and we're reversing that. We're figuring out what can we pull out of this, what motifs, what colors, what are the things that are Starbucks that we can put on a broader sense to bring a consumer product. Margo Chase: Here's another little diagram, it's taking the logo and saying, what are the parts of the logo that we could work with and then, if we were going to work with those, what kind of styles could we explore? So, can we take something that's part of the core logo and re-express it in a different style.
These are all examples that helped us to sort of take their temperature, like, is this okay if we do this? In some cases they said yes and then in a lot of cases they said no, we're not comfortable, that's too far away from our brand equity. We don't want to take the mermaid and redraw her. Then we went into a section that's a style exploration where we said, all right, given all this conversation that we've now had about who you are and what manifests your equity. Here are some visual stories about what we could do for you. So, here's one, we called it Rock Paper Scissors. It's all about through cut paper, very Matisse inspired, there is a color palette down here.
So, we have kind of showed them this and we say how does this make you feel? Is this something that you're comfortable with? If the product kind of had this feeling, would that be good for you? Here's another story. This one's called Organic Doodles. Same thing, okay, you can do this. It's hand painted, it's more organic, it uses a lot more greens, so it's lot more about growth, how do you feel about that. Chris Lowery: In the case of these, we may not be asking them to pick one? What we're really saying is, these are all possible expressions of your brand that you may express in one season or one year of consumer product.
And you could use all of them, because they all go to the core of the brand. Margo Chase: We got into some things that we knew were safe territory, because these are very much like what they do now. This one's called narrative collage and I'm sure everyone is familiar with Starbucks. So, when you walk into their stores, this is a lot of what you see, which is sort of this montage of a lots of different imagery and things that look sort of like, might be coffee bags or coffee crates or imported stamps and that kind of thing. So, we knew we could do that. And the interesting thing was when we showed them this they thought, they didn't want to do any more of that. Like they really wanted something fresh, so this was a good way for us to say, here's something we know you could do. Do you want to do that? Because we weren't sure and here's something even, sort of a little bit off in the more sort of craft and really sort of distressed category, things that are lot more monochromatic in terms of the color palette, a lot more woodcut, a lot more texture to it.
Chris Lowery: You'll see some of that throughout. I mean one of the pieces that's really core to them is hand-crafted. The hand-crafted cup of coffee is kind of the philosophy of the core of that and so each of these has a hand-crafted element. Margo Chase: Then, here's another one. This one was called Logo Deconstructions which was going back and saying, all right, maybe it's not necessarily so much about a feeling or style. It's actually about shade and deconstructing the elements of the logo and what would the patterns and prints that did that look like and would that be interesting or enough equity for you. So, we presented lots of different concepts to them, of different directions they could take the signature program.
They gave us direction and chose a couple. I think we ended up with three we developed. Chris Lowery: Right and again, at this point in the development, we don't know what they're going to make. They may be deciding to make bedding and home decor down the line or they may be doing something closer in like some of the beverage things that you see in front of you and a little bit in between like the notebooks and things that are related to the coffee culture. But we don't know that at this point. So we're proposing something that can be used on a broad range of consumer product. Margo Chase: As designers, we're kind of used to being able to make the final thing, like okay, yes, I made this coffee cup.
But in this case, we didn't. Chris Lowery: And on that same note too. We talked a lot in the packaging section about knowing what your final medium is. What's the substrate, how is it getting printed, how is it getting produced, we know none of that. So, in some ways we're producing art and assets that can be used in many mediums and applied many different ways and we have to know that they're versatile enough to do that. Margo Chase: So, what we are making is essentially a style guide that includes a lot of assets that are prints and patterns and icons and sort of some rules for how to use those things.
These are some of the assets that we created. So, this guide actually got delivered to them as a PDF with a CD attached to it. That was just the disc that had a bunch of files, asset files. The PDF shows them what's included and how to use it and what the colors we recommend are. Then we're trusting them and they have a great in-house art department. So the trust is not unfounded that they could take our work and actually make great things with it. All of this stuff that's in front of here is things that they made and we did not make.
So they took our graphic art and our prints and applied them in a variety of ways to all kinds of things. So there are a lots of things in here that they haven't used yet and that may appear in the future and there is something about this for us is we don't actually know when they're making things. So I go into Starbucks and I'm like, oh look! There is a new one. So, it's fun. So they've been really -- I mean, the way they've applied it, it actually makes the work really good too. Chris Lowery: They do a great job of manufacturing their own goods. So they manage all their own manufacturers to do this now.
With the Polly guides that you see in front of you here, it's a really very similar thing. It's a consumer product style guide but it's for licensing. So it's a little bit of a different animal. The definition of it, the best way to define it is just think of a character property like say Dora the Explorer, it existed, it became a popular cartoon. Now we want to make consumer product. So, what happens is they need to know what that product is going to look like. Then they take it out and they get licensees who are manufacturers to sign on to manufacture Dora product and sell it to Target and they get a percentage.
So at that point, we've got to convince the licensee, who takes the most risk, that this is a good property and that it does translate to consumer product and that's what these guides are about. Margo Chase: In the case of Polly Pocket, it's a little tiny doll, about this tall. So, in terms of turning it into a licensed property, we've had some challenges and one of the big things was trying to figure out how to turn it into a character brand because the way Mattel manages Barbie, they actually photograph the doll and the dolls are very photogenic. They're bigger and their faces are pretty.
So, they can actually photograph the doll and that becomes the image. But in the case of Polly Pocket, they couldn't really do that because the photography of that little doll doesn't really work. So, we ended up recommending that they create this animated character illustration and she's based on-- she's redrawn quite a bit-- but she's based on some of the illustrations that came from the original development of the toy and were on some of the original toy packaging. So it's really fun. It's very collaborative. I feel like this kind of consumer style guide stuff is kind of risk in a way because as a designer we have to kind of give up control, make all these things, you spend all this time making them as perfect as you can, and then you give them away and you hope that that will make you look good and not embarrass you.
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